Indignation, based on Philip Roth’s novel, centers on Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a Jewish eighteen-year-old in 1951, who leaves his home in New Jersey to attend Winesburg College in Ohio. Marcus is a serious and sensitive young man whose officious Jewish parents (Linda Emond, Danny Burstein) annoy him to no end. He’s not a joiner: he doesn’t get on with his Jewish roommates and resists joining a Jewish fraternity. The only person he’s drawn to is the non-Jewish Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), a mercurial blonde whose failings Marcus is oblivious to because Olivia is luminous, sweet, and easy. The conflict arises from external forces, mainly the dean of students (Tracy Letts), a typical Fifties Guy who tries to coax Marcus into conformity. The results are gravely tragic and impactful, even if first-time-feature-director James Schamus somewhat botches The Big Twist. No movie can totally translate the interiority of a novel dedicated to consciousness—and neither does Indignation. Moreover, Indignation goes without the spectacular set piece at the end of the novel. Still, most of the scenes in the movie are verbatim from the novel—for better and worse: For better because the prose is masterfully crafted, for worse because the dialogue is too formalistic.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White